> Here's a summary of what the Astros should do this offseason. By the way, a
> good link towards 2007 free agents is here:
> Well, it was a fun last two weeks, but the 2006 season
> for the Astros is over. We finished at 82-80, which
> is about where we belong considering we scored 735
> runs (12th out of 16 teams in the NL) and allowed 719
> runs (2nd out of 16 teams). This offseason should be
> an interesting one - here's what I'm thinking,
> position by position:
> Catcher - Brad Ausmus / Humberto Quintero / J.R. House
> Ugh. Ausmus and Angel Berroa of the Royals had a long
> showdown to see which regular would end the year with
> the lowest OPS in baseball (Ausmus - 593, Berroa - ).
> He also only threw out 17 of 77 basestealers, a
> career-low 22%. Basically: he's terrible, and we're
> stuck with him for another year. We have to play him,
> but hopefully as little as possible. He did put up a
> .333 OBP against lefties, so hopefully platoon him
> with Quintero or House a little more. Long-term, look
> to sign a free-agent catcher after 2007. I wanted
> Ramon Hernandez (.275 / .343 / .479, 23 HR, 91 RBI) or
> Johnny Estrada (.302 / .328 / .444, 11 HR, 71 RBI)
> this past off-season. Damn.
> First Base - Lance Berkman
> That was easy. Lancey Lance had a huge year in '06,
> leading the team in virtually every important
> offensive category, and hitting .315 / .420 / .621
> with 45 HR and 98 walks. It's a great start to his 6
> year / 75 million dollar contract, and if he stays
> healthy he should be absolutely worth it. Note: He
> slugged .704 against righties this year; only .416
> against lefties.
> Second Base - Craig Biggio / Chris Burke
> Biggio has some really weird splits this year (his
> worst year in a LONG time, by the way). He hit a
> solid .298 / .346 / .522 at home, and a jaw-droppingly
> awful .178 / .253 / .288 on the road. Is that even
> possible? Once again, he collapsed after the All-Star
> Break (784 OPS before, 648 OPS after), as he has for
> quite a while. Hopefully this means he gets off to a
> good start in 2007, gets to 3000 hits (he's 70 away)
> by the ASB, at which point Burke (who had a good
> building block kind of year, hitting .276 / .347 /
> .418) takes over the 2nd base job for good, with
> Biggio getting occasional sentimental 'farewell'
> starts at home in front of the fans.
> Third Base - Morgan Ensberg
> This is my biggest offseason concern BY FAR. I am
> terrified that the Astros will make Mike Lamb or
> Aubrey Huff their 3rd baseman and let Ensberg walk,
> where he will get snapped up by some team like the
> Padres, where he will put up a .400 OBP and solid
> defense for cheap. Yes, Ensberg had a strange
> injury-filled year, and he hit only .235. But he put
> up a .396 OBP, HIGHER than his career year of 2005,
> and drew 101 walks despite missing a lot of time.
> He'll be 31 at the start of '07, but he has a career
> .270 / .372 / .486 line, which is exactly what we need
> batting in front of Berkman. PLEASE re-sign Ensberg.
> He won't even be that expensive (he made 3.8 million
> this year).
> Shortstop - Adam Everett
> Unlike Brad Ausmus, Everett really does live up to his
> fielding reputation. There have been several articles
> that have Everett conservatively listed as saving
> approximately 40 runs with his glove over the course
> of the season. He's that good. Yeah, his offense is
> bad: .239 / .290 / .352 but I think he's still worth
> it. He's cheap, too - $1.9 million this year. We
> don't have any better options anyway.
> Outfield - RF: Luke Scott / Jason Lane
> Luke Scott = Roy Hobbs, circa 2006? Scott came out of
> nowhere with a Pujols-like .336 / .426 / .622 line in
> the final few months. I don't think he's THAT good -
> first of all, no one is, and 2nd of all, he's a career
> .277 / .363 / .524 hitter in the minors. That's not
> too bad, but Jason Lane is a career .252 / .324 / .475
> hitter in the majors, and he needs more playing time.
> He actually hit lefties better this year, and is
> slightly better against them over his career (821 OPS
> to 788 OPS), so I like them platooning in RF and
> having the other as our 4th outfielder / PH
> CF: Willy Taveras
> Willy T is similar to Everett in that he really is
> good defensively, and although he's frustrating
> offensively he did put up a .333 OBP with decent SB
> rates (33/42). His 2nd half stats are particularly
> encouraging: .308 / .365 / .375 with 20 SB / 4 CS.
> Combine that with the fact that he'll be 25 in
> December and will be cheap, and he'll be fine.
> LF: Moises Alou / Hunter Pence
> Now, left field. Top prospect Hunter Pence might get
> a shot, but I'd rather give a short-term deal to a
> free agent. How about one lasthurrah for Moises Alou?
> He had his highest OPS in 4 years this past year,
> hitting .301 / .352 / .571. He's pretty bad
> defensively but he only has to cover the 4 square feet
> that comprise left field at Minute Maid. He'll also
> need plenty of rest, so Lane / Pence can fill in for
> him plenty. Alou was extremely popular in Houston,
> and loves hitting at Minute Maid .337 / .405 / .591,
> 37 HR, 153 RBI in 606 AB. Put that into a 400 AB
> season and account for some aging (Alou will be 40,
> but he just put up the best OPS of his last 4 year),
> and you're looking at something like .300 / .370 /
> .520, 20 HR, 85 RBI. Just make sure you don't give
> him a multi-year deal! I don't hink he'll get one,
> anyway. One really important note - Alou is a dead
> pull hitter. In fact, this is one thing that I want
> to talk about: Minute Maid deserves to be treated as a
> unique ballpark because of the short fence. Righties
> hit MUCH better there, so it is to our advantage (all
> other things equal) to have righty pull hitters on
> offense (Biggio, Ensberg, Alou) and pitchers that are
> tough on right-handed batters.
> Bench: Humberto Quintero, Eric Bruntlett, Mike Lamb,
> Jason Lane, Orlando Palmeiro
> Starting Pitchers - Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Woody
> Williams, Fernando Nieve , Jason Hirsh
> Anyone realize that Oswalt was the only NL pitcher to
> finish with a sub-3.00 ERA? His 2.98 ERA is awesome,
> he only walked 38 in 220.2 IP, is tough on righties,
> doesn't give up many HR's...what's not to like? His 5
> year / 73 million dollar deal should be ok ASSUMING HE
> STAYS HEALTHY, just like Berkman. I think Oswalt is
> more of an injury risk because he is of slight build,
> has a fairly violent delivery, and he has to pitch,
> while Berkman plays 1B.
> I really think Andy Pettitte is going to want to come
> back (he'll be 34 in July), and it seems that he likes
> pitching in Houston. He got off to a rough start last
> year but then turned it on in the 2nd half: 5.28 ERA
> before, 2.80 ERA after. He's still got a nice
> strikeout rate (178 K / 214.1 IP) and is a nice fit
> for our infield defense (Ensberg / Everett / Burke) as
> a groundball pitcher.
> I read on RotoWorld that Woody Williams really,
> REALLY, wants to come pitch for the Astros. He's from
> the area and has always mentioned how much he likes
> the team. Do we want him? For the right price, I say
> yes. He had a solid year in 2006, putting up a 3.65
> ERA and a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio. He did give up 21 HR,
> and pitched significantly better at home in spacious
> Petco Park, so there is concern here. He'll be 40, so
> a 1 year / 5 million dollar deal would be fine.
> After that, it's pretty wide open. I really want to
> see Fernando Nieve get a look as a starter - we really
> don't need him in the bullpen (see below), and he had
> a much better BB/K ratio as a starter. Oh, and he's
> tough on righties.
> I'm guessing Jason Hirsh will be the 5th starter. He
> gave up 10 ER in 2.2 IP at Cincinnati in his 3rd
> start; take that away and his ERA was 4.27 and his
> WHIP was 1.33. He dominated at AAA last year (2.10
> ERA in 137.1 IP) and has nothing more to prove there.
> Bullpen - Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler, Russ
> Springer, Trever Miller, Chris Sampson
> Lidge had issues with command last year, but he has
> too much potential to give up on. Qualls needs to
> throw fewer innings (168 the last 2 years). Wheeler
> had a 1.11 ERA in the 2nd half. Springer actually had
> a really good year last year, with a 3/1 BB/K ratio
> and a 1.04 WHIP, and Trever Miller was a good Purpura
> signing, pitching 50 innings with a 3.02 ERA. Note to
> Garner: Miller was just as good against righties last
> year. I like Chris Sampson as a spot starter /
> long-relief guy more than Matt Albers or Wandy
> Rodriguez or Taylor Buchholz. Albers isn't quite
> there yet, Wandy has a career 5.58 ERA in 264 IP in
> the majors, and Buchholz had a 5.89 ERA last year.
> Sampson is a groundball machine who doesn't walk
> anybody, kind of a mini-Qualls.
> Those are the mainstays, though there a few prospects
> that might break through:
> Brooks Conrad played mostly 2B last year and can't
> field that well, but he did lead the league in
> extra-base hits while slugging .534 at AAA. Not too
> bad. Paul Estrada struck out 134 guys in only 88
> innings as our AA closer.
> Well, that's that.
> My lineup:
> Scott / Lane
> Biggio / Burke
> Ausmus / Quintero
> My rotation:
> and a pen of
> It's not a terrible team, and it's unlikely that we'd
> make the playoffs, but the NL Central is still weak,
> and it's got a good mix of breaking in the youngsters
> (Taveras, Scott, Burke, Pence, Nieve, Hirsh, Sampson)
> and signing a few popular veterans that should please
> the fans (Biggio, Alou, Pettitte, Williams).
> It wouldn't be a terribly expensive team, either - I
> don't think bringing in Carlos Lee would make a huge
> difference - the only 'name' signings would be Alou,
> Pettitte, and Williams.
> In a year or two, those three and Ausmus should be
> moving on, hopefully replaced by Hunter Pence or Adam
> Dunn, a few of our pitching prospects, and a 2008 free
> agent catcher (Johnny Estrada, Jorge Posada, etc.)
> That's enough. I guess I was pretty bored.
> Next time: 5 reasons why I don't want Carlos Lee.